Thursday, 24 March 2011

Myth and Magic

I've just finished reading The Tiger's Wife, an astonishing first novel by Téa Obreht. I've had to fight hard with myself not to rush and finish this book too quickly. It is breathtakingly well written. I've been repeatedly going back and re-reading passages to enjoy again the sublime beauty of the prose. The stories within the main story are layered and folded into each other in the cleverest way, myth and magic interwoven with the brutal realities of war. It's a story very much about storytelling, but also about the aspects of stories that cannot be told, perhaps the most important aspects of all - those that are rightly left to the imagination. Great stories linger in the mind more through what is left untold. They leave us open to wonder.

And The Tiger's Wife is indeed a wondrous story. It took me out of myself like no other book has for a very long while, transporting me to a whole different world. I feel like I want to thrust copies into the hands of complete strangers - to simply share the joy I've experienced reading it. In my opinion, it really is that good ... so if you've not read it yet go and buy yourself a copy and let me know what you think. Trust me!!

After my last blog post on Serendipity it seems appropriate to relate the route by which I came to read this book. It was firstly on the back of a review that I read in the Metro, the free daily paper which I occasionally read on the train into work. And it is very occasionally now, for if I'm not biking in, my head is straight into a book. This was possibly the only time I've picked up the paper in the last month. I think it was because I had just finished a chapter and was almost home so didn't want to start another. That night, without any intention to read it anytime soon, I added it to my To-Read shelf. A few days later, browsing Goodreads, I stumbled across it again and read a few reviews. Despite already having a number of books on the go, I felt this almost irresistible impulse to get a copy. I almost always wait until a book comes out in paperback, but this compulsion overrode that. A couple of clicks, and a few hours later I get an e-mail telling me it's been dispatched from Amazon. It's waiting for me when I arrive home from the office the next evening.

I can easily rationalise how I come to have a copy of The Tiger's Wife here in my hands. There is a strong buzz around the book at the moment which I was almost bound to pick up on, and I've always been drawn toward Magical Realism as a genre. There was an immediate appeal to me, especially at this stage of my new journey. That's all very logical, but there is still this part of me that wants to believe there is more to it. I want this magical book to have been brought to me in a magical way. And this, in a way, is a central theme of the book. The main character, Natalia, is a modern doctor with a rational world view, trying to fight superstition with reason, yet she still wants magic in her life and cannot let go of the possibility. We never really discover whether she finds it or not. And that is the main point really. We are left wondering in the story, just as we are in life.

This is an abridged version of a piece originally posted to my Goodreads Blog.


  1. Ugh, my tbr list is long enough. But can't resist "sublime beauty of the prose" and magical-realism.

  2. Monica, thanks for stopping by. Resistance is futile. Succumb to its pleasures and let me know what you think! I'm sure you'll adore the writing.